N. Bruce Hannay

AT&T Corporation

February 9, 1921 - June 2, 1996


Election Year: 1977
Scientific Discipline: Engineering Sciences
Membership Type: Member

Physical chemist N. Bruce Hannay’s research at Bell Telephone Laboratories, conducted over a span of 38 years, played a large part in our modern understanding of the chemistry and physics of solids.  He was the author of approximately eighty technical papers that dealt primarily with mass spectroscopy, molecular structure, semiconductors, superconductors, and solid-state chemistry.  After the invention of the transistor in 1947, Hannay directed a chemical physics group that studied and created single crystals of silicon which led to the groundbreaking invention of the silicon transistor.  He developed new techniques for the mass spectrographic analysis of solids that later became the modern analytical method for detecting trace impurities in solids.  Hannay was also one of the first chemical researchers to suggest that superconductivity occurred in intercalation, or layered compounds.

Hannay received his B.A. degree in chemistry from Swarthmore College in 1942.  He went to Princeton University to earn his M.A. in 1943 and his Ph.D. the following year, both in physical chemistry.  He began his extensive career at Bell Laboratories in 1944 as a member of the technical staff.  After a decade of prolific research, he was promoted to head of the Semiconductor Research Department in 1954, to head of the Chemical Physics Department in 1955, to the Chemical Director in 1960, and finally to the Vice President of Research and Patents in 1973 (a position he held until his retirement in 1982).  Hannay’s involvement in the scientific community was evident from his organizational memberships such as the American Society for Testing and Materials, the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society, the Electrochemical Society (president from 1973-1974), the Industrial Research Institute (president from 1974-1975), and the Directors of Industrial Research (chairman from 1976-1977).

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